in·​ter·​po·​late in-ˈtər-pə-ˌlāt How to pronounce interpolate (audio)
interpolated; interpolating

transitive verb

: to alter or corrupt (something, such as a text) by inserting new or foreign matter
: to insert (words) into a text or into a conversation
: to insert between other things or parts : intercalate
: to estimate values of (data or a function) between two known values

intransitive verb

: to make insertions (as of estimated values)
interpolative adjective
interpolator noun

Did you know?

When Henry Cockeram put interpolate in his 1623 The English Dictionary; or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words he defined it in a way we no longer use: “to polish.” Cockeram’s definition ties the word very closely to its Latin root, polire, “to polish,” but the English word has a more direct source in Latin interpolare, meaning “to refurbish or alter,” or “to alter or corrupt something by inserting new or foreign matter.” This latter meaning persists in our English word today, though modern use of interpolate usually simply suggests the insertion of something into an existing text, work, etc., as in “she interpolated her own commentary into the report.” Musical elements can be interpolated too, as when an artist inserts a melody, lyric, etc., from one song into another without directly sampling. For example, the Beatles interpolated part of their early hit “She Loves You” into the closing moments of their later hit “All You Need Is Love.” In mathematical contexts, to interpolate is to estimate the values of data or a function between two known values.

Choose the Right Synonym for interpolate

introduce, insert, insinuate, interpolate, intercalate, interpose, interject mean to put between or among others.

introduce is a general term for bringing or placing a thing or person into a group or body already in existence.

introduced a new topic into the conversation

insert implies putting into a fixed or open space between or among.

inserted a clause in the contract

insinuate implies introducing gradually or by gentle pressure.

insinuated himself into the group

interpolate applies to the inserting of something extraneous or spurious.

interpolated her own comments into the report

intercalate suggests an intrusive inserting of something in an existing series or sequence.

new chapters intercalated with the old

interpose suggests inserting an obstruction or cause of delay.

interpose barriers to communication

interject implies an abrupt or forced introduction.

interjected a question

Examples of interpolate in a Sentence

He smoothly interpolates fragments from other songs into his own. He interpolated a very critical comment in the discussion.
Recent Examples on the Web Their brand was chaos: live shows that were transcendent or tragicomic depending on the drugs involved; albums that interpolated brilliant Stones-adjacent youth anthems and devastating country weepers with slapdash Kiss covers and improvised jams where no one played their actual instrument. Elizabeth Nelson, The New Yorker, 21 Sep. 2023 This week, Chris Stapleton roars mightily with a new bluesy-rocker, and Chris Young interpolates a classic David Bowie riff in his latest release. Jessica Nicholson, Billboard, 24 July 2023 Howe also collaborated closely with songwriter-producer Blake Mills on string arrangements for some of the songs, and occasionally interpolated the tunes into his underscore. Jon Burlingame, Variety, 2 June 2023 Passages from Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti, and Tennyson are also interpolated, though most of the words are Soper’s own. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 6 Mar. 2023 What hahahaspam did was interpolate between the frames, making the motion appear much more smooth. Phil Plait, Discover Magazine, 28 Aug. 2012 Both agencies use nearby stations to interpolate temperatures in areas lacking stations — and the method employed by GISS is simply a bit more aggressive than NOAA's. Tom Yulsman, Discover Magazine, 18 July 2022 Ultimately, Larson and Vogt proved that curves will always interpolate through the expected number of points, with the exception of four special cases. Jordana Cepelewicz, Quanta Magazine, 25 Aug. 2022 And so a line can interpolate through two points but not three. Jordana Cepelewicz, Quanta Magazine, 25 Aug. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'interpolate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin interpolatus, past participle of interpolare to refurbish, alter, interpolate, from inter- + -polare (from polire to polish)

First Known Use

1612, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of interpolate was in 1612


Dictionary Entries Near interpolate

Cite this Entry

“Interpolate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​ter·​po·​late in-ˈtər-pə-ˌlāt How to pronounce interpolate (audio)
interpolated; interpolating
: to alter (as a text) by inserting new matter
: to insert between other things or parts
interpolation noun
interpolative adjective
interpolator noun

More from Merriam-Webster on interpolate

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